16 Dec 2020

CUHK Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Rocky S. Tuan and Provost Professor Alan K.L. Chan’s Open Letter – Getting Ready for Term 2

16 Dec 2020

Dear Students and Colleagues, 

Getting Ready for Term 2

The Fall Term has just concluded, let us first of all wish everyone a safe and healthy holiday season ahead. 

The Fall Term started on a promising note, when the third wave of COVID infections slowed in Hong Kong. Classes proceeded very much as planned. The “hybrid’’ mode of teaching worked well, as feedback from students and teachers shows, without compromising the desired learning outcomes. We must thank all our staff for their tremendous effort, our students for their understanding and cooperation, and our alumni for their support and encouragement. Teaching and learning would not have progressed as well as it did, had it not been for the community coming together during this trying time. Difficulties remain, of course; for example, we are keenly aware that some students, especially freshmen, experienced a sense of isolation, as they were unable to connect with their seniors and peers in person and make new friends. 

In November, we undertook to make more face-to-face classes available and organized some carefully managed student activities. Unfortunately, just as we hoped we could step up some of these efforts, a new wave of COVID infections arrived, putting the city under siege once more. The current fourth wave of COVID infections is fierce and has spread widely. There are far more cases without known origins for comfort. The University must play its part in strengthening its infection control measures, so as to protect the health and wellbeing of all our members. As the new academic Term will begin in less than a month’s time, we must make timely adjustments to our plans for teaching and learning, and for hostel accommodation. 

Teaching and Learning 

Unless conditions improve, classes will continue to be conducted mainly online. While some face-to-face classes for a small number of undergraduate courses, including lab/studio/practicum-based undergraduate courses and postgraduate courses may be arranged under strict infection control measures, prudence dictates that campus density should be kept to a minimum. We very much hope that when conditions improve, we will be able to accommodate more first-year students and classes on campus as we originally planned in November.  Students should consult CUSIS for the individual course arrangements. If the pandemic subsides after the winter, we will again adjust our teaching arrangements to allow for more in-person on-campus activities.

It is unfortunate that student exchanges cannot proceed for the remainder of the academic year, as the pandemic rages on throughout the world, but the Virtual Student Exchange Programme spearheaded by CUHK is receiving a warm reception and has provided valuable global learning opportunities for many of our students.

Hostel Accommodation 

The risk of a cluster of infections emerging on campus is real. That risk would surely increase if a large number of students were to return to their hostel accommodation. Even with single room occupancy, the sharing of common facilities still poses considerable risk. For this reason, although we realize how disappointing this must be for many of our students, some of whom reside outside Hong Kong and are very much looking forward to returning to campus, we have to act responsibly and limit occupancy. We must also set aside rooms for emergency purposes in case there is an outbreak in one of the hostels and a thorough disinfection is needed. 

Under the current unfavorable circumstances, other than those students who are already in their hostels, only a limited number of additional rooms will be available to students for the Spring Term. The Colleges are in the process of finalizing their plans and will be informing their students shortly. 

Act Together Against COVID-19 

The end of the fourth wave of COVID infections is nowhere in sight. The ferocity of the present rate of transmission is alarming. Fatality arising from COVID-19 is not confined to the elderly, as recent cases sadly confirm. The University appeals to all members to stay vigilant. Even with the promise of a vaccine, we cannot emphasize strongly enough that we need to act together to keep our campus safe from COVID-19. For more information on the University’s infection control measures, please visit the “Act Together Against COVID-19” website.

We will continue to monitor the situation closely, keeping in mind always that the health and safety of our members must come first, adjust our responses as necessary, and keep you informed in a timely manner. Once more, thank you for your understanding and steadfast support.

Yours sincerely,

Rocky S. Tuan Alan K.L. Chan
Vice-Chancellor and President Provost